THE BIGGEST Islamic centre and mosque in the country is set to be built in Auckland, in an unprecedented multimillion dollar construction project.
The Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand is seeking more financial backers for the south Auckland project, which is being promoted as a ‘‘ dialogue centre’’ or ‘‘peace centre’’.
FIANZ project manager Umarji Mohammed said the centre, planned for Takanini, would cost up to $15 million and be the largest of its kind in New Zealand.
Plans are still being drawn up for the development, which would include a mosque, sports centre, swimming pool, traveller accommodation units and a school for up to 300 students.
New Zealand’s growing Muslim population is estimated at around 55,000, with 40,000 in Auckland.
Mohammed said the purpose of the planned centre was to connect different communities and would allow Muslims and non-Muslims to pray, learn, exercise and socialise together.
The centre, which will sit on a 4.5- hectare section owned by FIANZ, was especially targeted at young people who needed somewhere to ‘‘vent their frustrations’’.
There were a lot of problems with New Zealand youth: ‘‘If they are not tended properly they can go into drugs and alcohol or even become extremists.’’
The centre would benefit new immigrants who needed a ‘‘stepping stone’’ to help integrate into the community and overcome language barriers.
FIANZ has yet to get funding for the ambitious centre and is looking to expand its sources of income. It currently earns most of its money from Halal meat certification.
Mohammed said FIANZ had approached donors for funding, including organisations in Islamic countries, but was anxious to be as transparent as possible. ‘‘We are living in a very the moment.’’
The association also plans to approach government for funding.
An Office of Ethnic Communities spokeswoman said the centre would be a welcome resource for Auckland’s Islamic community and its members’ needs.
‘‘The office supports the Islamic centre in helping to foster greater social cohesion by providing a welcoming community hub for Muslims to come together, support each other and interact with the wider local community.’’
Auckland Council gave the development the green light in November. The application had limited notification, so only those who were believed to be directly affected by the development were invited to file submissions.
One submission received council was withdrawn.
Manurewa-Papakura ward councillor Calum Penrose said he was fully behind the centre.
‘‘The church groups really bring their people together.’’
The centre would help get youths ‘‘off the streets and out of trouble’’, Penrose said.
There were 178 different ethnic groups in the Counties Manukau region. ‘‘We have to move with the times,’’ he said
FIANZ has yet to make applications to the Ministry of Education but it is hoped the school will be a special character school, similar to Al- Madinah Islamic school in Mangere.
Al- Madinah’s roll was full there was clearly demand another school of this type in area, Mohammed said.
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